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Robert Witcher Copeland
Robert W. Copeland circa 1944
Born (1910-09-09)September 9, 1910
Died August 25, 1973(1973-08-25) (aged 62)
Place of birth Tacoma, Washington
Place of death Tacoma, Washington
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Naval Reserve
Rank Rear Admiral
Unit "Taffy 3"
Commands held Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)
Battles/wars Battle off Samar

Navy Cross

Presidential Unit Citation

Rear Admiral Robert Witcher Copeland (September 9, 1910 – August 25, 1973) served during World War II.

Copeland was born in Tacoma, Washington. Enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1929, he was commissioned as a Naval Reserve officer in 1935. Copeland practiced law from 1935 until 1940, when he was ordered to active duty during the Navy's pre-World War II expansion. During the war, he commanded Pawtucket (YT-7), Black Douglas (PYc-45), Wyman (DE-38) and Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413).

During the Battle off Samar, October 25, 1944, while commanding Samuel B. Roberts, Lieutenant Commander Copeland led his ship and crew in an attack on superior Japanese battleship and cruiser force. Though his ship was lost, this action helped defeat the Japanese counter-offensive against the Leyte invasion. For this, he was awarded the Navy Cross, and shared the Presidential Unit Citation with the rest of Task Unit 77.4.3

A quote often mis-attributed to him "This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” was actually said by Captain Ernest E. Evans, commanding the U.S.S. Johnston.

Following World War II, Copeland resumed his law career while remaining a member of the Naval Reserve, in which he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. Robert W. Copeland died at Tacoma, Washington, on August 25, 1973.

In 1980, the frigate USS Copeland (FFG-25) was named for him.

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